By Dan Gelston, Associated Press
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are set to add Washington guard Matisse Thybulle to a franchise making a serious push toward an NBA title.
Thybulle, 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, was a four-year player for the Huskies and was the 2018-19 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. He’s considered one of the best defensive players in the draft and earned the nickname “The Disruptor” as the only player in Pac-12 history with two 100-steal seasons.
The Sixers were set to pick 24th in the draft but sent the pick and the 33rd overall pick to the Boston Celtics, who selected Thybulle with the 20th pick, said a person familiar with the move. The Sixers selected Virginia guard Ty Jerome with the 24th pick as part of the trade. Jerome led the national champions in assists. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday (Friday, PHL time) because the teams did not announce the trade.
The Sixers also have the 34th, 42nd and 54th picks of the draft.
The Sixers went 51-31 and were knocked out of the Eastern Conference semifinal for the second straight season. Coach Brett Brown will return for his sixth season.
This was the first draft run by general manager Elton Brand, who was hired just before last season. The draft is only the first piece of what is expected to become a pivotal offseason for the Sixers.
The Sixers head into the summer with Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick all entering free agency. Butler and Harris could sign maximum contract deals with the Sixers. Redick has signed one-year deals each of the last two years to stay with the Sixers. The Sixers surrendered key assets in two trades during the season for Butler and Harris that signaled they were all-in for a championship. The Sixers have the cap space and are willing to spend on Butler and Harris to keep a nucleus that was one Kawhi Leonard Game 7 winner away from advancing to the East final. Butler, acquired from Minnesota in November, is sure to ask for the max contract of nearly $190 million over five years.
The Sixers are willing to give Brown everything he needs to keep the Sixers in the hunt for their first NBA championship since 1983. Embiid, Simmons, Butler and Harris form an All-Star caliber lineup that should easily keep the Sixers at the 50-win threshold. But Simmons and Embiid both have major holes in their game that could keep the Sixers from becoming a true championship contender. The Sixers are already on the hook for the $121 million left on Embiid’s deal and Simmons is a year out for earning a max-level extension.
Brand, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, starts his first summer as GM after he was thrust into the position in the wake of the Bryan Colangelo Twitter fiasco.
The Sixers failed to have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012. They’ve whiffed over that span more times than they’ve hit. Embiid and Simmons have become cornerstones. But former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz (2017), No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor (2015) and 2013 NBA rookie of the year Michael-Carter Williams all flamed out with the Sixers, stunting the progress of the rebuilding era known as the Process.
They’re couting on Thybulle — a former teammate of Fultz’s at Washington — to help out right away. Thybulle was named Pac-12 men’s basketball player of the year by The Associated Press after becoming the first Division I player in 20 years to have 100 steals and 70 blocked shots in a season. Thybulle was the Huskies’ fourth-leading scorer at 9.2 points per game, but dominated at the top of their disruptive zone, using his long arms to block shots and reach into passing lanes.
He led the nation with 3.50 steals per game.